One aspect of facial plastic surgery that continues to fascinate me, even after more than twenty-five years as a board certified plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist (head and neck surgeon), is how even seemingly minor adjustments made with facial plastic surgery procedures can make such a dramatic difference. Take the ears, for example. Most people hardly ever pay attention to the ears or what they look like, but for those whose ears are abnormally large or small, or whose ears project unusually far, even the most subtle contouring from ear surgery, or cosmetic otoplasty procedures, can achieve life-changing results. Many patients come to me wanting to learn more about how they can change the appearance of their ears. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about ear surgery.
The outer portion of the ear, which is called the pinna or auricle, is made up almost exclusively of skin stretched tightly over a flexible cartilage framework. This cartilage will naturally warp or bend when scored with a sharp implement, making it possible to sculpt and re-shape the curves and arches of the outer ear. In cases where the ear is insufficiently developed, additional cartilage can be taken from the patient’s own body so as to avoid the risk of allergic reaction, surgical rejection, or post-operative infection that artificial materials may create.
Can ear surgery be performed on adults?
Absolutely! This is a very common question, as ear surgery is typically associated with pediatric malformations of the ear, and specifically with a technique used to decrease the projection of an overly prominent ear by recreating missing folds in the cartilage, a procedure commonly known as “ear pinning.”1 While this specific procedure is usually best performed on children between the ages of five and seven years, ear surgery can actually accomplish a great deal more. In fact, according to statistics published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than two-thirds of the cosmetic otoplasty procedures completed in 2015 were performed on patients over the age of twenty.
What exactly can ear surgery accomplish?
In addition to improving the shape, position, or proportion of the ear by correcting defects that may have been present at birth, ear surgery can also treat conditions acquired later in life as well. Blunt trauma to the ear inflicted by accident or violence may cause blood clots to interrupt the usual blood supply to the cartilage. Over time, this may result in cauliflower ear, an acquired deformity of the outer ear that gives it a lumpy and shriveled appearance. Furthermore, ears, like any other facial feature, tend to sag with age due to the gradual loss of elasticity in the skin and soft tissues combined with the effects of gravity. Both of these issues can be addressed and corrected with reconstructive otoplasty procedures.
Ear surgery is just one of the many different ways that facial plastic surgery can help improve the delicate balance of facial features and overall aesthetic appearance. If you are interested in learning more about what cosmetic facial plastic surgery can do for you, I would welcome you to contact my Atlanta Plastic Surgery, P.C. office and schedule a consultation. Don’t forget to connect with me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.
- Cohen, SR., Burstein, FD.: “Protruding Ears.” In: Spitz, L., Coran, A.G. (ed.), Rob & Smiths’ Operative Surgery. Chapman & Hall Medical, London, 1995.
- Burstein, FD.: Cartilage-Sparing Complete Otoplasty Technique: A Ten Year Experience with 100 Patients. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery. 2003 Jul;14(4):521-5.